Bots are all the hype. Chris Messina
, an active Refind
user and a bot uber-guru, pushed us to build one for ages. One day we finally felt like it: we wanted to test the waters with a simple bot.
Refind is the home for the best links on the web. People use it to discover, save, and read what’s really worth their attention. A bot could send the user a digest of the top 3 links as a daily morning briefing — on the platform and device she hangs out on.
Specs for V1
- The user can subscribe to a few topics: Design, UX, Programming, etc.
- Every day, the bot sends the top 3 links — curated by our community of hipsters, hackers, and hustlers — at 8AM (local time).
- The user could change frequency: daily, three times a week, weekly.
Zero to bot
Within a few hours, we had the bot ready
. Here’s a quick rundown of our steps in case you’re new to bots and want to build one yourself:
- Wrote down (business) goals in a Google Doc.
- Read a few articles about bots in general, from this list: https://refind.com/chrismessina?q=bots
- Jotted down a few questions / potential show stoppers (e.g., can a bot send a message to the user days after the first interaction?).
- Played with a few bots (first time we ever interacted with a chatbot): MessinaBot, CNN, WSJ, TechCrunch.
- Quickly researched platforms: FB Messenger, Slack, iMessage, …
- Decided to start with FB Messenger.
- Most questions had been answered by now (e.g., on FB, you can send after 24h with the page_messaging_subscription).
- Build from scratch or use a developer tool? Scanned FB platform docs, researched a few developer tools.
- Decided to go with Chatfuel.
- Created a Hello World bot (that was easy!).
- Sketched the bot in a Google Doc: onboarding, flow, key messages.
- Question: What’s the interface with Refind? API?
- Found that RSS is probably the simplest interface to start with.
- Found the TechCrunch template on Chatfuel.
- Created a new bot using the TechCrunch template on Chatfuel.
- Created RSS feeds for popular topics.
- Used the W3C validator to validate our feeds.
- Used the endpoints in the bot.
- Adapted messages.
- Published the bot.
- Tested one day later: The bot came back to us — on time at 8 AM local — with our digest of top 3 links. Cool!
- Made some minor tweaks, improved the flow.
- Wrote this post.
Give it a try
Obviously, this is a very simple bot. If it becomes popular, we’ll extend it with features to save links to Refind or to deal with your reading list.
P.S. As a side effect, we also took the first steps towards opening up Refind for developers: https://refind.com/developers